CFP: [American] "Stupidity" SEA March 2009 Bermuda

full name / name of organization: 
Michael Householder
contact email: 

"Stupidity in Early America." The Society of Early Americanists 6th
Biennial Conference March 4-7, 2009, Hamilton, Bermuda

In the journal of her trip from Boston to New York in 1704, Sarah Kemble
Knight remarked of the country-dwellers she encountered, “[T]hese people
have as Large a portion of mother witt, and sometimes a Larger, than
those who have been brought up in Citties; But for want of emprovements,
Render themselves almost Ridiculos.” In defending the improvability of
these bumpkins, Knight articulates an anxiety that preoccupied many who
wrote about early America: the stupidity of its inhabitants. This
session will explore the representation and significance of stupidity
(including the related conditions of ignorance, primitiveness, vulgarity,
and innocence) in early American literature and culture. Possible topics
include: representations of bumpkins, idiots, fools, dupes, fops,
ingénues, and other stupid types; essays about, proposals for, and
descriptions of, schools or other schemes for improving learning and
literacy; scientific studies of, or biological or environmental
explanations for, the absence of intelligence; rhetorical deployments of
stupidity as a marker of national, regional, racial, religious, sexual,
political, or socio-economic difference; and theorizations of stupidity
as it relates to government and political life. Interdisciplinary and
transatlantic approaches are welcome.

Please send abstracts by September 10 to Michael Householder, Southern
Methodist University, at Conference details are
available at

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Received on Wed Jul 30 2008 - 14:08:54 EDT